One Man and His Blog: December 2011 Archives

December 2011 Archives

December 31, 2011

An Ending

My desk, stripped of all
Au Revoir

December 25, 2011

A Merry Christmas to you all

Christmas light
And so, another year ends in this festive season. I'm facing a 2012 with more uncertainty than I think I've known in over a decade, but with uncertainty comes possibility and with possibility comes the chance of something great...

So I'm relaxing with family, cooking a huge turkey, and looking forward to presents and whisky later on.

Thank you all so much for reading OM&HB this year. There's a festive message, a review of the year, some "missing posts" and a list of the most popular posts of the year to come over the next week or so.

I hope you have a great Christmas, if that's your thing, or a happy holiday period if it's not. Best wishes to you all.

Sign of the Christmas Times

Sunday Times Christmas EditionIt's been a year for hatin' on News International, what with the whole phone-hacking business. But, give them their due, they're still experimenting. This morning, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I'm reading a Christmas Day edition of a newspaper:

Sunday Times Christmas Edition sections
The contents of the Sunday Times Christmas Edition
I always used to be mildly annoyed that we never got Christmas Day newspapers when I was growing up - and also, as I go a bit older, feel sorry for those poor hacks on the news pages of the Boxing Day editions...

The idea of a digital only issue of The Sunday Times, pushed out to tablets, is just genius. Kudos to the digital team there. 
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December 24, 2011

Nice upgrade to VaultPress

Wow. This will make life so much easier for those whose sites get hacked...

Diet time for web pages…

While most of us pack on the pounds over Christmas, it appears that web pages have been doing it all year long:

The HTTP Archive charted the growth of the average web page and found that average web pages have grown from 726 KB a year ago to 965 KB now. The 33 percent jump is due in large part to more images and third-party scripts like ads and analytics. Javascript content, spurred on by the rise of HTML5, has grown over the last year by 44.7 percent, according to analysis by Royal Pingdom.

There's an argument that, as bandwidth grows, this is fine. But I think the rapid growth of mobile browsing more than outweighs that.

New Year diets all around…

iPad Skitching

I've been a big fan of Skitch on the Mac for years. It's just lovely to have it on the iPad...

December 13, 2011

Afternoon Coffee Reading: 13/12/11

Do stupid things fasterSome delicious, cream-filled linky goodness to while away the rest of the afternoon:

  • Driving by looking in the rear view mirror - an interesting cautionary note from Neil, looking at how predicting the death of things or viewing the future with too much reference to the past can skew your views. I remember the days when I though that RSS would allow us to build and have printed our own "newspapers"... 
  • More thoughts on magazines and publishing on the iPad - I like the pragmatic approach on display here. And I really don't like straight PDF replicas. 
  • Designing apps for tablets: consider the time of day - interesting figures. I think too few people are considering how and when people will use their apps right now. We're too used to the one-setting (at the keyboard) paradigm of the web...
  • Publish or perish McKinsey tells retail brands - I find the rise of brand content at the same time that traditional journalism content is on the decline to be one of the most compelling feature of the attention wars right now. For all that it's a tough time to be a journalist, content is clearly still in demand...
  • SoLoMo in the fast lane - I thought that the "local" element of Le Web's social-local-mobile theme was the least in evidence. Here's an argument that I'm wrong. 

Mmm. Links and coffee... ;-)

December 11, 2011

The best thing about New New Twitter

Oh, hello built-in Tweet embedding:

Native tweet embedding
Since Twitter retired its Blackbird Pie embedding function, I've been looking for an easy way to embed tweets in blog posts. And now it's build right into Twitter. Happy happy joy joy. :-)

Le Web: Spotify lets the music play

Daniel Ek

Daniel Ek, Co-Founder & CEO, Spotify

This was a liveblog I abandoned because it didn't seem "content rich" enough. I originally planned to mix it with the Sean Parker interview, as he's an investor in the service, but that proved big enough to stand entirely by itself.

I have a confession: I'm not a Spotify user. Oh, I have the app on my Mac and iPhone, but I've never got into the habit of using it. I still habitually play music from my own collection. I'm so middle-aged. However, I'm also aware that it's reached almost cult-like status amongst many of my more webby friends, so I was interested in hearing Ek talk more about it..

Spotify arose as a response to the growth of piracy in Sweden - they wanted to make it easier to consume and share music that it was to pirate it. What happens if you have iTunes with ALL the world's music in it? "We wanted it to work everywhere, like water." Loïc seems to be unaware that it was available for years in the UK before it headed to the US, which is odd. Cracking the US wasn't easy, says Ek - it took two years. They set targets for themselves, and proved repeatedly to the record labels that this works. What are people paying for? Portability.

What's new with the service? They've added 7m new users since they launched their Facebook app (! - frictionless sharing obviously works...). They think social sharing of music listening is vital to their growth - that was a core reason for the partnership with Facebook. And (inevitably) Spotify is becoming a platform - there's an SDK - you can use HTML5 apps using javascript to hook into the Spotify experience.

Big news: Spotify radio - a streaming experience. 

Spotify Radio

It's a "lean back" experience. Unlimited skips, unlimited stations. That's a direct play against things like Pandora, and actually makes it more appealing to me - rather than having to pick and choose songs, I can fire it up and let it run.

The business has £2.5m paying customers - the majority paying €10 per month

So, are they going to sell? Ek says not. They just want to build a great company - everything else is secondary. The objective is not to sell.

Music fans might also enjoy the video from the party for Le Web attendees, featuring the Ting Tings...

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December 9, 2011

Le Web: Parker and Pishevar report from the startup coalface

Parker and Pishevar

Sean Parker, General Partner, Founders Fund & Shervin Pishevar, Managing Director, Menlo Ventures

After an awkward and unrevealing bit of questioning about a meeting near the White House that Parker and Pishevar started talking about making new businesses. Parker denies being an investor - despite making investments - he seems himself as an entrepreneur with his own fund. Right now he thinks there's too much capital chasing too few good businesses with good ideas, so we need more entrepreneurial startups. If there's too many startups getting founded at early stage, you end up with a serious talent crunch.

Pishevar is looking for businesses with really ambitious goals. It takes as much effort to run a local coffee shop as it does the whole of Starbucks. Which would you rather do? You can build a multi-million business in a contracted period of time, because of the web. We're in a transitional period of time, so the entire world is a start-up right now. Our generation is ready to lead, but we don't want to accept the institutions; we want to disrupt them. Things set up for the 20th century don't compute for us. Shaker and Airtime are allowing us to bring a bit more randomness into our world, as we've already met (remet) all the people we know through existing social tools.

So many companies come to us without a complete team, says Parker. For example, they need a really good engineering leader, who can code and can hire and grow a team rapidly. Without that, they'll struggle until they become successful enough to recruit someone. Parker doesn't like sack management teams, but to take an operational role in the companies that he manages.

Alexia Tsotsis

Alexia asks about Gowalla, which both were an investor in. They both seem happy with the deal to sell it to Facebook, as Parker described it as a "good exit for Josh". Parker suggests that the company wasn't innovative enough in combatting Foursquare, remaining too similar to the leading product. Everyone has their failures, says Pishevar, and if you don't fail, you don't have a place at the table. He suggests that people need success amnesia - instead of resting on their laurels, they push forwards with new things after a success. The same should be true for failures. That's the inspiring part of entrepreneurship.

And we're getting quite philosophical now. Pishevar is talking about people losing their fear - "fear becomes finite, hope become infinite" "We are not afraid of death..."

Parker thinks Spotify was his chance for redemption after Napster. He's helping fix problems he created. At one point he couldn't get meetings with guys in the record labels, and now he considers some of them good friends. Media business tend to be insular, run by a small elite. But it's a shrinking industry, so it's harder and harder from everyone from artists to publisher to make money. Parker's (self-proclaimed personal) view is that the best music in the world is NOT being made today. The mechanism by which the music gets to your ears is unable to take risks with the artists that come to them. They let bands get a long way into their career before they fund them.

For music to go viral, we needed to establish a free tier of service, says Parker. By creating that with Facebook, we've allowed anyone to experience any music for free. Apple's licensing model doesn't support social distribution of music. Spotify is starting to answer the question of how we'll find our new music in future...

Parker puts his biggest failure as the hiring at Napster - he got the wrong people, a certain breed of "parasitic leech". You have to recognise that, and eradicate them as you would any insect. He was too you and naive to tell the difference between a competent executive. Pishevar learned from a period when he had custody of his kids, and was trying to write business plans while looking after his children. He also learnt that you shouldn't build business 10 years ahead of its time.

And some guy is claiming to be Sean Parker's son from 10 years into the future... One way to get a meeting.

Parker feels that the social media elements of politics haven't been figured out yet. the 2008 campaigns made a lot of claims, but it was more about making the candidates seem relevance than any actual effects. He thinks next year's election will be the one where social media comes of age. Social media can deliver a relationship between people more cost effectively than traditional methods - and that's how it could change things, by letting a less well funded candidate win.

Someone from the audience asked why Spotify now requires Facebook. If you build a music  product that's designed to be isolated, then social doesn't matter, says Parker. If you want a network, then you really want everyone sharing, and so enforcing the Facebook login enables that. They made a bet that Facebook is so deeply penetrated that there's enough people that it won't adversely affect their growth.

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Le Web: partying with the Ting Tings

A taste of last night's Le Web party:

Five things I learnt from day two of Le Web

1. Your talents emerge young, so follow your passions...

Bill Gross

Sometimes entrepreneurship starts young. Bill Gross, Founder & CEO, Idealab was 12 when he started running candy arbitrage on his street, buying sweets in one place cheaper than the prevailing price, and then selling them at a profit, while undercutting the local shop. I started publishing a newspaper for the kids on my street when I was eight... Working at something you're passionate about makes a huge difference.

2. Mobile is replacing the web

George Colony

Forester's research shows that more and more customers are choosing apps over the website of online retailers, according to George Colony, Chairman & CEO, Forrester Research. 45% of the companies are taking money from the web to apps. Bear in mind that the web is not the same thing as the internet. The web will be replaced just as other services have been before.

3. Context + Social Data = Useful Analysis

Deb Roy

Is Twitter chatter around an event or a TV show just noise? Is it media? Or is it one of the best research tools you have? Take a wild guess...

4. Sometimes simple applications of technology fund more interesting research

Ariel Garten

Ariel Garten, Co-Founder & CEO, Interaxon made a return appearance with more developments on her thought-controlled tech - which they're using for games. At least, for now...

5. A grown man in bunny ears is very distracting

Bunny ear man

I have no idea at all what that demo was about...

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December 8, 2011

Le Web: Automattic and the virtual workplace

Sarah Rosso

The Ignite talk at Le Web I'm most interest in: Sara Rosso from Automattic

No-one is inspired by a cubicle-filled office. But we're locked into thinking about productivity as something that happens in an office. But what should that be? Some people are more productive at home, at the beach, in a co-working space. But remote workers are still viewed with suspicion in most businesses.

Automattic, makers of, are completely distributed. They don't have an office. Their staff are scattered all over the world. Rosso lives in Milan...

How do they do it? Private chat on IRC, Skype and a bunch of internal blogs are the key communication tools. It means that all the information and discussions in the company are searchable as soon as you join. IRC is their "showing up" in the office. Everyone needs to be a self-starter, though, they need to manage themselves, and they need to over-communicate on their progress.

Companies need to be distributed because they can recruit from a bigger pool of talent. You can move beyond the idea of the Apple Store-radius of recruitment.

They meet once a year (at least) for a mix of fun and work. 

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Le Web: How is social-mobile-local changing media?


A panel discussion the changes in media wrought by the latest technology, moderated by Thomas Crampton. Not surprisingly, Paul-François Fournier, Executive Vice President, Orange Technocentre defines media as, essentially, businesses that produce content, which is a pretty broad definition. Brad Garlinghouse, President, Consumer Applications & Commerce Group, AOL thinks that keeping traditional media away from the innovative, digital media is vital to stop new efforts being crushed.

Is Techmeme media? Gabe Rivera, Founder & CEO, thinks it is, even though they don't write any of the content. The term "media" is overused, he suggests. When people say "media" they almost always think of broadcast media of various sorts. Bruno Patino, Senior Executive Vice President, Strategy Digital Director, France Télévisions Group & France 5 talks about the evolution of television and people start constructing social conversations online around TV shows as they watch them. This represents a loss of control for the media; they're still in the game, they just don't control it any more. And that's not a bad thing. It maximises the experience.

Rivera suggests that most social media isn't really integrated with existing media, just sort of bolted on the end. Very often tweets are just amplification or repetition. Fournier points out that media is changing on multiple fronts. TV is evolving into the multi-screen experience. Other media is now being published through social networks. There is lots of experimentation, and there will be failures and successes we learn from.

Patino argues that people don't "deliver" the news any more, you give up control of your news when you publish it, and people will absurd it into their networks. The context in which we are telling stories is changing.


Crampton moves on the conversation from social to local. Social is about scale; local is the response. Garlinghouse reminds us that traditional media has struggled to fund local coverage for decades. Patch is AOL's attempt to reverse that - targeted at areas of around 50,000 to 80,000 people. But he thinks Twitter is garbage - or at least he says as much before he starts back-peddling, throwing out the world platform instead. He thinks there's a huge opportunity at the intersection of the social graph, the interest graph and the local graph. Crampton challenges the sustainability of the Patch model, and Garlinghouse says that the experiment will play out over the next few years. Some Patch sites are already profitable.

Scaleability is the key question, says Patino. We used to call local 500k to 600k. That's not local on the web. The ground is changing everywhere, so the old volume business model just breaks.

Alexia Tsotsis from Techcrunch challenges the relevancy of local media. Patch is at about 10m uniques in 18 months - but it's clearly a challenge, says Garlinghouse. But to say that local community is irrelevant is short-sighted at the very least. Patino thinks that we have to find a solution, so that local powers continue to be monitored. But Rivera wouldn't do a local site. There are plenty already - and by definition, there isn't much to aggregate and filter. The abundance just isn't there. Garlinghouse points out that stories of national importance can start in local areas - it's something like citizen journalism curated. The question is: are local merchants interested enough to advertise on the platform?

Is mobile passing the desktop for media yet Probably not, says Rivera. However Twitter says that over 50% of its activity is on mobile, and it's over 30% for Facebook. Garlinghouse would like to see more customisation of news experience based on your social, mobile and interest graphs. Patino certainly thinks mobile is the new frontier for TV and very important. They're looking at iPhone and iPad appellations that allow you to catch up with, and share, TV. And Fournier suggests their DailyMotion deal was driven by similar considerations.


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Le Web: 5 steps to making a predictive, social business

Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah Owyang, a partner in the Altimeter Group, has a question for us: Is your business ready for social business? You wouldn't trust a pilot, a surgeon or even a member of your shop staff if they didn't have training. Yet many do with social.

We're still really early in social - maybe the 1998 equivalent of the web. Companies are rushing to integrating social - but they're not doing pod job. The Washington Post tried to integrate with Facebook 11 different ways on one page. Why have you spent years getting people to come to your website just to send them straight to Facebook. The mainstream media are upping their coverage of social media crises.

We have a spiral towards social media sanitation. If we respond on social media without a strategy, we can actually make things worse. So... a social business hierarchy of needs. (The slides will be on his blog later)


Getting the basics right. Why are we doing this? What education do you need? Educate employees around tools is a basic minimum. Dell use unconference style training. Intel have an internal certification programme.


Get the right team in place. He's got five models - he talked about them last year. The average size of a corporate social media team is 11. Weber Shandwick has pretend crises to practice on.


Looking just at work accounts, owned by the company - many companies have proliferating accounts right now. 1 out of 330 employees are using these tools for business purposes.


If you're running social media in a business - you need to let go and let the running move to the business units. Most companies still have it locked in Marketing. Support is usually next, following by product. This level is rarely reached by most companies. Salesforce rewards their top social media employees - Chatteratti.


Social, local and mobile enable you to start predicting what your company need to provide. Websites will increasingly be assembled on the fly, based on mobile data. Websites as we know them will change, and conventional advertising will go away - replaced by contextually useful. But we are years away from this.

Most companies have yet to integrate social data into their main customer relationship tool.  But to get to that point, you need to climb your way up this hierarchy.

The slides:

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Le Web: Marissa Mayer or Google Take Two

Marissa Mayer

So, what does Marissa Mayer have to offer us this year? After all, we had Schmidt yesterday... Well, a few things.

  • Checkins + Deals will launch next week
  • Latitude is still under development - 10m active users

She thinks there's lots of activity in local still. It's natural that there will be winners and locals. What will make for success? Transactions? Data ownership? That's where Google has put the emphasis, because they think that they can innovate with. Location is useful on phones in particular. Maps follows voice and texts as the major use for a phone. As of June, maps has more usage on phones than on desktop.

Why go for indoor maps? Plenty of places that are large, indoor and confusing: shopping malls, airports, etc. It's not just the maps, it's locating people within the spaces. No GPS inside, so they use WiFi signals to locate you. A survey tool takes measurements of WiFi strength every few feet within the building...

Google+ is vital to her team - local feeds social feeds local. Chances are if you're going somewhere, you're going there with someone or to meet someone. Social and mobile working together offer real ways of working together. They've learned a lot from Wave and Buzz. Wave was a great concept, but was over-promised and too hard to understand. Buzz taught them a lesson about privacy.

There's a clear company line emerging about Android - it's ahead of iOS, Google services are better on Android. They're clearly wedded to it as the future of the product.

Becoming Microsoft or becoming Yahoo? Which is the bigger fear? asks MG Seigler.

"Every company is it's own thing."

"That's not one of them."

"I'm not going to pick one of them."


What does it take to be a great product manager? asks Chris Heuer. Finding the right people - those who can look at technology, see what is possible, and create a great product. By the time they come to her, they've passed the technical hurdles, so she wants to see what excites them. She wants people with enthusiasm, not those who are "too cool for school". They need to build products that delight things, and you need to understand what delights you first to do that.

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Le Web: Evernote - gunning for your office software suite

Phil Libin

 From 5m to 20m users in a year. Partnerships with companies like Orange in France, to give their users a free year of Evernote Premium. A refreshingly free way with their figures - apparently the only way to build trust with users who might store their memories in the service for a lifetime. It must be a Phil Libin presentation. He's covering much of the same ground as last year so far. 750,000 premium users - less than one in 20, but then the don't pressure people to upgrade. "Free" Evernote is the main product. They got profitable about six months ago, but are back in the red now, as they're hiring as fast as they can. They'd need to put the brakes on that to go back into profitability. Oh, and they now have offices internationally - including  forthcoming one in Zurich, the first in Europe.

Two new apps:

Evernote Food

Food is one of the things Libin is capturing all the time in Evernote. Easting is one of his "core competencies". It's a separate app, because he believes that mobile should be simple and clear in their function. Mobile apps should be simple, but desktop apps can be unified. Capture a photo of your food - the app automatically captures the restaurant, and pulls up related notes.

Evernote Hello

Similar thing for people. Photos of people, map of where you met them, and any related notes. Uses the iPhone gyroscope to makes sure you get good photos, and grabs four to create an animated "moment". Links to social networks are going to come in the next version.

Evernote is build for Libin - he can't remember stuff. He likes food. He can't remember people's faces...

They're up to six apps now. Where are they going? They want to reimagine what tools for the modern knowledge workers look like. Office as the model doesn't take into account 30 years of ethnology development. What are the tools for a modern person who has narrow boundaries between home and work? That's Evernote.

Le Web: Airy answers from Airbnb

Brian Chesky

More than once this Le Web, I've heard American voices talking about how they used AirB&B to get themselves a room in Paris. The concept is allowing you to pay to borrow someone's guest room or apartment, villa or other property. Indeed there are everything from apartments through to castles and islands - and even entire (small) countries...

The company started in 2008 on a couple of credit cards, and has grown through two rounds of funding. How much traffic do they get from appearances on TV shows like Conan O'Brien. The answer? Not much? It make have a reputation effect, but not a usage spike. Average person in New York makes $4000 a year using the service - and that's at 4 nights a month let out.

And now Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO is falling into buzzword bingo "community" "platform" - he suggests that Airbnb is becoming a platform without really giving us any details of how. Ooh, Tourism 2.0. New buzzword. However, his point that by bringing tourists and travellers into residential neighbourhoods, they're bringing new business to companies that never had a tourist base before.

One interesting revelation: they had to more actively manage their would-be "landlords" - people who are unresponsive or are attracting poor ratings are contacted and, if they don't respond, removed from the site. Last year, they had a user vandalise a host's apartment. They responded with rolling out dozens of new features for security, and instituted a 24/7 helpline. Not clear exactly how that would prevent it happening... Chesky has lived the service though - he spent a year living out of apartments he rented from the service.

They have a network of 2000 photographers worldwide who they pay to go and photograph properties at no charge to the hosts. And they found them by e-mailing people in their community.

They have $112m from their last round of funding. They intend to invest in search and discovery on the site as a priority. They hope to become, as he puts it, the Google of places and experiences, rather than info.


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Le Web: Never banal

BMX Bandits
French BMX
Le Web is never dull. This morning's session started with BMX champions doing tricks on stage...

December 7, 2011

Five things I learned from day one of Le Web 11

1. All that's old is new again

Mike McCue

Publishers that are working with Flipboard for special content sections are able to sell their adverts in that app at about the rates they were able to in print, according to Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard. New distribution channels = new opportunities for revenue

2. New teams work in new ways


Joanna Shields, VP & Marketing Director EMEA, Facebook talked about how virtual teams are able to work together in the company internationally, but using social tools to keep themselves better connected than they would be if they were sat next to each other. Zuckerberg has a Friday open mic where staff anywhere in the world can ask him questions. Our workstyles are changing fundamentally.

3. The one thing more useful than data is MORE data

Denis Crowley

Foursquare is starting to use that vast database of checkins it has built up through Mayorships and points and badges to build a recommendation engine, and that's what their Explore product is. Build a fun product to capture data, and then build a new product on top of that data... And that data, because it's crowd-sourced and up-to-date, is being used as a default location API by many other companies - could they also be pushing data back in to add to the value of the data? Liveblog here.

4. The dark times are what makes you


Kevin Systrom, CEO, Instagram pointed out that many startups go wrong because they don't have enough problems to focus their minds. Their pivot allowed them to figure out exactly what they were. (Want to know the story of Instragram's pivot?)

5. Small teams can overturn conventional wisdom - with enough money

George Whitesides

The final presentation of the day, from George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic, pointed the way to overturning the assumption that things that are the preserve of the big - be it business or, in this case, government, can be overturned by a small, innovative team - as long as that team has enough money. Liveblog here.

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Le Web: LinkedIn gets down to business

Allen Blue

How is life after the LinkedIn IPO? Exciting, loads of new faces and very little turnover, suggests Allen Blue, Co-Founder & Vice President of Product Management, LinkedIn. But that doesn't come easy, he suggests. You have to work hard to build a future and opportunities for each employee, so that they feel that the best opportunity is right where they are.

LikedIn wants to help in three big areas:

  1. Better decision making
  2. Better innovators
  3. Help get things done

They think about mobile in that way. In 2000, BlackBerry was the mobile king, but it was also a problem, as people were spending all their time on the mobile and not on their lives. So the next stage will be about balance.

LinkedIn offers "outbound intelligence" - the ability to research and make connections before walking into meetings - they call it meeting intelligence. And then the news product is the first step towards keeping people informed. And lastly, they want to support face-to-face meetings. Which brings us to Cardmunch, which is a lovely little app that allows you to upload photos of business cards from your mobile, and upload them for processing. Works great for me. LinkedIn wants to declare victory over business cards - but hasn't quite made it yet.

MG Seigler

MG Seigler raises the issue of co-existence with Facebook, and Blue seems unchallenged by the idea, given that professional gives them a defensible position against the social giant.

LinkedIn Answers suffered because often asking a question is admitting ignorance, and thus professionally dangerous. They contemplated anonymous question asking as a response, but settled instead for creating a better environment. The real professional identity concept is important to them.

What they are building is a data resources about people and their professional networks - they'd love to see that built into more applications through the API.

Not the most earth-shattering session - but confirms my impression of an established web product hitting its stride in terms of usefulness.

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Le Web: Eric Schmidt and his Android buddy

Eric Schmidt

Eric Scmidt, the executive chairman of Google kicks off the afternoon session, and he's backing the conference theme of  "social, mobile, local" . Is it just a fad asks Loïc? No, says Schmidt. has been with us for 10,000 years. Everything is mobile first these days, that's where all the talent is going, he suggests. Why? "Old timers like me assumed that computing would be these big boxes on desks, but it's a service, something that can help you anywhere. "

And as if to prove the point, Hugo Barra is up to talk about Android's Ice Cream Sandwich Much of this has been shown before: face recognition to unlock a phone, the multitasking button, the improvements to widgets. Social is very deeply integrated with the People sec ion of the phone, allowing aggregation of people's social network activity attached to their details, via open APIs.

"We started thinking about phones as computers, and forgot that they were communication devices," says Schmidt. "We've really gone back to that."


And now we've switched to an Android tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich, to show how quickly they can go from a lock screen, to taking a panoramic photo to sharing it - about four or five clicks. Also, Near Filed Communication - Android Beam - the two phones go back to back, and the web page is shared between them (looks kinda awkward, to be honest, but the audience reaction suggest that I'm not in the majority in thinking that). There's an API for the NFC stuff, and they're hoping to see lots of games stuff - he demos Fruit Ninja being played on one phone, and thus triggering a link to the Android Store on the other.

Schmid takes over to talk about an analytics platform for social, which they're launching shortly. This will allow people to track the effect interactions across the social graph are having. That should be cool.

Hugo Barra

In response to questions, he starts talking politics - suggesting that the political system is going through serious struggles, with a major danger of a recession again in 2012. But then there's a cyber world, in parallel world of mobile phones and information - and the expectations of citizens are being defined by what they can do on the web. He thinks these two worlds will merge in equilibrium that balance and improve each other. We can capture the activities of dictators from the start, preparing for their trial before it begins.

The way to be successful is to build platforms at scale. Big info dump of the standard Android activation figures. New entrepreneurs should be looking to be build platforms that scale very, very fast.

It's been clear for years that you'll have many IP addresses attached to you - you'll have a lot of highly, personalised device around you. Evolution? Computers will do what they do well, and so will we. We'll do creativity, intuition, enjoyment and entertainment, and computers will solve the needle in the haystack problem. The explosion of big data - a power law straight up - and we'll start analysing that for predictions, for information.

Loïc asks about Schmid's apparent interest in engaging with politics, and Schmidt brings it back to the Arab Spring. He suggests that it's easier to start a revolution than to finish it. Deposing a leader can be easier than finding the system that will replace it. He reminds us that it took France 100 years to stabilise into a democracy after the revolution. The modern mobile consumer won't wait that long.

Oh, and he thinks Silicon Valley needs a competitor. Entrepreneurship skews young, because those people have less to lose, and fewer family responsibilities. That draws them to cities - and that measn that several places in Europe have the chance of being that competitor city. The role of city authorities? Make sure the citizens have access to fixed and wireless broadband. The citizens will take care of the rest. Schimdt loves (in jest) laws that prevent people inventing particular products. Premature regulation is a danger. But governments shouldn't turn the internet off - if they don't like the image in the mirror, smashing the mirror doesn't help. They should accept that the internet is the engine of growth for western countries - Europe is not going to return to a low wage, manufacturing economy.

He doesn't have much tolerance for people going excuses for not launching where they are - just do it. Competition is good.

Eric Schmidt

Talking of competition, Loïc asks about Facebook. Scmidt points out that in the Arab Spring, they used Facebook to get things going, Twitter to get people out, and then YouTube to record the results. Google+ is a social signal that they can use to find you better content. Last week's changes in YouTube are built on that idea. Scmidt doesn't know that Facebook is "beatable". It defines one area - he thinks Google is better doing something a little different. However, he contends that Android is ahead of the iPhone is terms of price, and volume. He maintains the line that Android started before the iPhone... Loïc shies away from asking the question about the fact that it started off looking like a Blackberry.

Rather curiously, he claims that by 2012 the majority of TVs will have GoogleTv embedded in them. Really? How? When? Was this a pre-announcement announcement, or a bit of FUD?

An questioner asks what Google are doing to get apps like Flipboard onto the platform. Schmidt suggest that we're in a transition from iOS dominating to Android, because developers will go where the numbers are. He thinks it will take six months for that transition to happen. We'll see.

Robert Scoble askas about the lack of noise control in Google+ - Schmidt talks about algorithmic filtering, with giving advanced users some controls to tweak that.

Le Web: Kevin Rose, Digging Painful Experience

Kevin Rose & Sarah Lane

Leo Laporte, Sarah Lane and Kevin Rose are having something of a love-in on stage, reminiscing about their early days on TechTV, and Rose's move from a behind-the-scenes techie to presenter through finding a bug in Windows, and his subsequent evolution into an entrepreneur. Digg came out of that - he was there six years, but has now left (but remains on the board). The early years of scaling and growing were crazy. He thinks he made a lot of mistakes - hiring, feature development. It was his "first ride on the rodeo".  They locked themselves into the LAMP stack, and once that stopped working for them, they were screwed. They had to bring in new groups of technicians familiar with new technologies.

Leo Laporte

They also had a continual battle to stop mobs dominating the voting. Now it's dropped from a peak of 38m uniques down to around 10m uniques. "You have a narrow window to get it right," says Rose. It's either 6 months or 10 years, if you're one of the really lucky ones. Facebook and Twitter emerged and started easting their traffic. So they had to try some bold things - Digg 4.0 was one of those. But they didn't pay enough attention to the hardcore users against what everyone was telling them they should do. The new CEO is heading back to those roots.

Oink, his new launch, is an app that allows you to like anything, any object or place at all. The more you rate in a particular area, the more you gain reputation in that area. The system looks for where you're rating things, and gives you more credit if the location and the object or activity match up. He's skeptical about gamification - he thinks it gets old very quickly - you have to build a reward system that gives genuine gains over time.

They have around 40,000 active users at the moment, and several times that in downloads.

This was an older, wiser Rose than I last saw at Le Web. Back then, he came across as arrogant, but the troubles of Digg over the last few years seem to have mellowed him, for the better. This such a new field that people who have had great successes - and then seen them go sour - is still quite small. As the industry grows, that experience must be valuable...


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Le Web: Dave Morin's Path from Facebook

Dave Morin of Path

Dave Morin had a hand in the launch of the Facebook platform - but now he's the founder and CEO of Path, a mobile journalling app, that's just relaunched. They'd been working on Path 2 for over six month and were "over-whelmed" by the response to the new version last week. Path is, essentially, a modern journal. We all carry mobile phones, and people want to capture moments with them - and often in a private way. Path is designed to allow you to pick and chose who you share with. It's "slightly social", as Morin puts it. You can use it on its own, or share with the people closest to you - even mundane stuff that might matter to them, but not the others in their network.

They're a completely design driven organisation - it's at the heart of how they work. And they're now on both iPhone and Android - Android has more sizes to design for, and less documentation and fewer frameworks, that made it a harder build. But their intention is to be ubiquitous, on all platforms. They're really committed to the idea of the post-pc era. HTML5 wasn't an option for performance reason - and they tried. They couldn't get the "intimate touch" experience. 20 people in the team. And then intent to move to tablets soon. It's a different experience, though, and they want to make sure their tablet design really takes advantage of that.

Will they become a platform? That's the plan over time. He think that the way Facebook has made it much easier to build product that require people's real names is a good model.

How did they move from version 1 to 2? Mainly talking to users, looking at what they said they thought of it, looking at what they were trying to put in Path  - there was a lot of screens hotting of other apps going on, so they made it easier to allow frictionless sharing of other information.

They have over $8m in funding, so they're in this for the long haul.

Isn't this treading on Facebook's toes? Not really, says Morin. Facebook is very focused on becoming the identity service for the web, and has public as its default. Path is focused on family and very close relationship, with default privacy. "Several hundred thousand" users right now.  They intend to monetize through premium services - a fermium play. They have some small filtering options already.

But the key message is iteration. They iterate the product every two to three weeks, which is as fast as they can. The product wasn't perfect when it launched - the changes between the versions proved that. But if you wait until you're happy with the product to launch, you've left it too late...

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Le Web: Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld

It's a surprise to have a tech conference kicking off with an icon of fashion. But Karl Lagerfeld has some surprises for us. He sees himself as very "different from the marionette he has become for the rest of the world".

Despite being a self-proclaimed "paper freak" when it comes to books, he's a fan of the iPad because it allows him to work, sketch, and send them back to the studio. He carries four different iPhones with him, with certain people only allowed to call certain phones.  "It's not one per person, I know more than four people". He has a bunch of iPod Nanos with the mixes of the day on them. He has hundreds of iPods with different compilations of music he creates, and he annotates them with the date so he can go back to a particular period.

iPads? He uses them as sketchbooks and diaries and photo books. He has several for different subjects and ideas.They've put his iPad up on the screen, and it's packed full of videos and photos, for inspiration or demonstration. He showed us a short video advertising a handbag.

Karl Lagerfeld at work

He finds sketching on iPads to be "very like engraving". He's working on an illustrated book only with iPad sketches. He shows us  a vivid sketch of Steve Jobs that he did this morning - he's a last minute person, he claims - "once you understand the system it is very easy" he says. And he demos on stage. He uses a stylus with a capacitive touch end to sketch with. Although, it's not working very well. It took a few attempts to ket it working.  Loïc is told off for "not really helping". And now it's all working and he's sketching himself on an iPad, live on stage...

He's not someone who believes in technology replacing things. He loves both his iPads and paper. They both have their place in his workflow.

Lagerfeld claims to be "very, very grounded". And oddly enough, I believe him, as far as someone can be with his wealth and fame can be...

And now Natalie Massenet from net-a-porter is on stage, and announcing the launch of a new collection called Karl, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, and available online exclusively from January 25th 2012. Prices are "for these times" - jackets from about £150. Some amazing evening dresses for more.

"Fashion today comes from a lot of pieces, it's not a complete look. New things spice up what you already have. The approach is more casual because things are less expensive,' says Lagerfeld.

 Lagerfeld doesn't teach - he dismisses the idea, and tells the story of a friend whose husband was having an affair. She water up for him, and then just said "teach me what she taught you". He doesn't do that... 

So, how does he learn, asks Loïc?

"I have my eyes wide open behind my black glasses," he says. "You have to be curious. And you have to adapt to the changing world. It does not adapt to us, I am sorry."

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Behind the scenes at Le Web 11

A quick video I shot yesterday on the behind-the-scenes tour at Le Web:

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December 6, 2011

Le Web: First Impressions

Le WEb 11
Once again I'm in Paris for the annual Le Web conference - my sixth, in fact. I'm part of the official blogger programme, and here's a few of my impressions as I wondered around behind the scenes:

Loïc Le Meur spent quite a bit of time talking to us, given how busy he must have been in the run up to the three days ahead:

Loïc Le Meur
Points of interest: 

  • The amount of money that's gone into the streaming video. Not only is the main stage built like a TV set, as the whole event is being streamed, but there's a whole studio in one of the other buildings, that's being used by the TWiT crew mainly (see the video in my next post)
  • Loïc considers the online audience to be an event in its own right
  • Loïc has been approached to do a Le Web in the UK, by the government. 
  • Press and bloggers are being given equal facilities and support
Here's Loïc at the end of the tour:

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The Romance of Paris

The view from my hotel window
This is the view from my hotel window in Paris.

It's just possible that I've chosen poorly...

December 3, 2011

Blogging Realistically

Excellent post from Stephanie Booth about being realistic about what blogging can bring you:

  • blogging is a long-term strategy: it will take many months or even years for you to see what benefits it's actually bringing you
  • don't obsess on visitors and comments; instead, focus on what is said about your blog, and the opportunities it brings, in terms of contacts, open doors, favorable dispositions (qualitative measurement rather than quantitative)

I've nicked the handy summary above, but it's worth reading the whole thing.

Mobile Smash Puny IT Policy


The deputy CTO of New York City's public school system, Tom Kambouras, has warned school principals that the widespread use of mobile devices, from iPod Touches to Android smartphones, by school employees has overrun the IT department's capabilities to the point that as of November 10th, no new devices were being allowed to register on the system-wide Wi-Fi network.

The fact that smartphones and tablets are bringing a decade's worth of infrastructure planning in large organisations to its knees is just the first indication of how much mobile is going to change the way we access information, communicate and work.

You don't need a mobile strategy; if your strategy doesn't include mobile, you're screwed.

December 2, 2011

What Open Data means for Journalists

Greg Hadfield, quoted by Sarah Marshall on

An open-data tsunami will mean that more journalism will be about interpreting - and putting into context - data that is open to all, at least in its rawest, unrefined form.

To an even greater degree, journalism will be about adding value to data by transforming it into information. The best journalism will be to add value to information, to provide insight, even wisdom.

My visit to NEXT in Germany earlier in the year persuaded me that big data is going to change the way many content businesses operate. Greg nails exactly why open data from government bodies and elsewhere will change journalism...

A web-first book workflow

This is an interesting watch for anyone interested in ebook publishing:

Brilliantly Noisy in Brighton

Beautiful Noise at 10 Green BottlesI've been repeatedly promising myself that I'd get more of a sense of what the Brighton digital scene was like since we moved to Shoreham part time a year ago. Cogapp's Greg Hadfield has been kind enough to invite me along to a few events, and there's the ever reliable Brighton Future of News Group, of course. But, honestly, I've completely failed to keep that promise to myself. 

Thankfully, thanks to an invite from the ever-lovely Antony Mayfield, I finally came some way to fulfilling that goal last night. Antony and his partners were launching a new digital strategy agency Brilliant Noise. And I had a rather lovely night. It felt very different to an equivalent London gathering - more relaxed, more casual dress (one chap came with his sleeping baby strapped firmly to his chest...) - but also more passionate somehow. I spent a good 20 minutes sharing enthusiasm for high-quality printing with like-minded folks after being given a new Digital Noise business card (printed by these folks). 

Y'know, I think I might like it here...

Incidentally, the venue - 10 Green Bottles - is a deeply dangerous place. A wine bar where you can also buy bottles of wine? I'm lucky I made it out of there without a crate or two, after partaking liberally of the generosity of my hosts... 


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